These are my little reviews of the three prequels, after watching them all again this week. I know they're not very good reviews. Their purpose is really to point out the things that stuck out to me most. I've posted most of this in the movie thread, but I thought it would be better to discuss them all in one dedicated thread.
THE PHANTOM MENACE
Hadn’t seen it in over a decade. I was afraid all the hard to argue against problems that have been brought up over and over by everybody in recent years would make it hard to enjoy. I do see some obvious flaws, such as…
- The film expecting you to suspend your disbelief quite a fair amount. The worst for me was little Anakin taking out the control ship after his fighter somehow auto-pilots him to the battle.
- Rather bland characters. (Wasn’t as bored with them as Rogue One’s, though. They’re handled better.)
- The CG is generally pretty blurry and undefined. It’s ridiculous how Jabba looks so much more realistic in Return of the Jedi than he does here. In other scenes, it shines. The pod race is a good sequence that couldn’t have been done with practical effects and models. The digital space scenes look good too. It’s the organic creations that suffer the most. There are a lot of models, real sets and matte paintings, so the idea that so much of the film is CG… Well, it’s true. A ton of it is CG, but most of what you see is real or composited.
- Anakin being a prophecy conceived by midi-chlorians. Dumb.
- Obi-Wan spinning is lightsaber for no reason, when not engaged in combat, throughout the movie.
- Watto flying with tiny wings.
But I find it to be a fun, visually attractive movie. I appreciate that it explores new themes, such as community and government, people coming together. The two commentary tracks made me further appreciate the artistry and details, even if it didn’t all come together well. I wish more creativity went into The Force Awakens.
ATTACK OF THE CLONES
This feels lazy compared to The Phantom Menace. It doesn’t have the same energy and isn’t fun.
The action is tame and lacking, especially in the first hour. Even after the story really picks up steam, there is little to be excited about. The characters get out of every situation like it’s nothing, including the queen turned diplomat. Why does she dramatically say, “Out lives are about to be destroyed anyway,” and act like they’re both about to die, only to then get out of her restraints so easily. The action scene isn’t in character for her. She shoots a bit in Episode I, becomes an action hero in Episode II and then does nothing in Episode III.
The romance is so unrealistic and hammy. I was smiling and almost laughing at some of the awkward crap that was coming out of Ani’s mouth and at how seductively Padme dressed when they were alone with a romantic fire. Why does Padme fall in love with him? The societal barrier between them is dumb. Making the Jedi passionless and celibate for the sake of a forbidden romance is one of the worst things the prequels did. The movie did very little to make me like Anakin.
Yoda should never have used a lightsaber.
I can accept the idea of the army being cloned from a bounty hunter, since a battle-hardened bounty hunter would have ideal genes and abilities, but why does it have to be Fett? His son was a nobody in the original trilogy (and had a white man’s voice).
Why does Dooku tell Obi-Wan that the senate is being controlled by a Darth Sidious and that the viceroy of the Trade Federation was used by the Sith? Why does he go on to ask Obi-Wan to join him so that they can destroy the Sith and then at the end of the movie meet up with his master, Sidious? I don’t understand his motives.
It’s kind of farfetched that Jango Fett is needed both on Kamino for the cloning and on Geonosis for Dooku’s schemes and assassination attempts. The way Obi-Wan gets to Geonosis is also far-fetched. He shows a dart to a cook, who somehow knows it came from Kamino, where he learns about the clones and speaks with Jango, who then attacks him and who he then tracks to the separatist base.
It’s so convenient that all the Jedi come to the rescue in the nick of time and then immediately when the battle is lost Yoda shows up with the clone army, like it’s so quick and easy to go to the remote Kamino, deliberate with the workers, amass the soldiers and ships and rush to the rescue.
There’s far too much CG. Even most of the storm troopers are CG, when they could have easily used real costumes. The Phantom Menace had a lot more models, sets, matte paintings, composited shots and scenes filmed on location. Some of the CG looked pretty bad, but there was less of it. You wanna know why the Trade Federation control ship looked so good in The Phantom Menace? Because it was an eight foot model. I think it was eight feet. Eight or six feet. I’d have to listen to that part of the commentary again to be sure. Lucas became lazy or too confident in his digital revolution.
It’s pretty average. I’m not hopeful for Episode III. Episode I had a likable innocence, kind of like the first movie. Episode II goes into darker territories poorly and too quickly.
REVENGE OF THE SITH
The opening is pretty good, with the banter between Anakin and Obi-Wan and long upbeat battle to rescue Palpatine. The second half feels rushed, like there’s much the film still needs to establish for the original trilogy. Anakin becoming full Darth Vader after helping kill Windu and then immediately killing children, Palpatine claiming the Jedi aim to take over the senate (How would they even accomplish this? The clones aren’t their army and the Republic is made of many governments.) and immediately creating a Galactic Empire with full support by the senate, even though the Jedi have been known as peacekeepers for generations, and Yoda choosing to go into exile immediately after his failure to defeat Sidious. The way it elaborates on the mythology and these characters is interesting, but it’s not very graceful.
The final lightsaber fight is honestly kind of like a silly video game lava platforming sequence. It’s drawn out.
It has some dumb moments, like Ani and Padme trying to be romantic on the balcony, Padme being perfectly healthy according to the medical droid but losing the will to live and Palpatine becoming deformed from an attack he would viciously use on Luke years later. Why does Anakin’s whole body catch on fire? Is that how lava works? It never seemed right to me. I would have rather seen him burn up in a big fire, or fall into lava or a kind of acid and rise screaming like in the end of Terminator 2.
The closer you get to the end of the trilogy, the more pointless it feels, since you already know where it’s gonna go. I have no desire to now continue on to Episode IV, because they’re vastly different trilogies that don’t flow together that well. The original trilogy is pretty self-contained, but this one has no ending. It’s all so dark and doesn’t give you much resolution in return. In Episode I, everything was still vague and there wasn’t so much focus on Anakin.
I find it depressing how highly rated Episode III is compared to the others. Is this what people want from Star Wars? Pain, gloom and cruelty?